Hi all. Our family consists of myself, Jeff, a 37 year old aerospace engineer with NASA, my lovely 35 year old wife Susan, also an aerospace engineer with NASA, my 9 year old son Brian and my 7 year old daughter, Katie. Both kids were out of school for spring break so we decided, given we all have Annual Passes, that there was no better place to go than Walt Disney World for vacation. We are not Disney neophites and knew going in that crowds at WDW would be huge and we were right. The MK closed by noon most days as did the water parks. However, we had counted on being able to utilize our early entry privileges to get some quality touring time in during the mornings, but alas, Disney decided to open all parks on all days to all guests during the early entry time period. Our supposed perk for staying at a Disney resort was thrown right out the window. This we are still most unhappy about. Well, on to the trip report.
Day 1 March 29 - Travel & Epcot
We live in Huntsville, Alabama, and as we always do, drove to WDW. We made the trip in a little over 11 hours and the drive was uneventful. There was construction on I-75 (isn't there always?) south of Lake City where the lanes necked down from 3 to 2 but for the most part things moved along pretty well.
We got to Orlando around 12 noon, and drove straight to Fort Wilderness. Check-in at the FW Campground was super fast. It only took us about 5 minutes - a new record! We were assigned site 1022 which is on the Raccoon Lane loop which is almost directly across from the Meadow Trading Post. We were surprised when we found our site that someone was already set up on it! Discussion with the folks revealed that they couldn't open the canopy on their 5th wheel trailer so the wife had gone to get assigned another site. The husband wasn't too keen on moving but the wife won out. She had to have that canopy! Shortly they were out and we pulled in. We have a 1995 Coleman Utah pop-up camper and we had no trouble opening our awning. We had requested when we made our reservation to be near a comfort station but we soon found out we couldn't be any farther away. Loop 1000 doesn't even have a comfort station. We had to hike all the way around the loop, down a path to the comfort station in the 900 loop. As usual, the kids trotted off to the nearest playground while mom and dad did the dirty work.
After getting everything set up we decided to ride our bikes to the Trail's End Buffet for lunch. Just as we rode up a torrential downpour hit. We scrambled in and were seated immediately. IMO, the Trail's End is one of the better food values in all of WDW. The buffet items included spaghetti with meatballs, fish, fried shrimp, pasta, pizza, pork chops, a good selection of vegetables and a soup and salad bar. To top off the meal, there was a variety of pies and cake. Cost for the entire meal was $31 with tip.
Just as we finished eating, the rain stopped - what timing! We made a stop at the Guest Services area to get Deb Wills' 25th anniversary quarters (they're in the mail Deb!) then wandered over to the petting farm. It appeared that Minnie Moo had lost quite a bit of weight since we had last seen her. We noticed too for the first time a handwash station in the petting area for those that don't want goat smell on their hands all day. We then toured the Tri-Circle D stables to see Willie, Frog, Prince, Sue, Sara and Hot Dog. Names not familiar to you? Why they're the pretty white horses that pull Cinderella's coach. Also, the huge Belgians and Percherons that pull the trolleys up and down Main Street are kept there. There is a nice photo display on the right just as you enter that chronicles horses in Disney films and at the parks.
We then capped off the evening with a visit to Epcot. Why Epcot? We let our kids pick and that's the park they chose. And some people say kids are bored at Epcot - not mine! We walked onto/into SE, Ellen's Energy Adventure, Cranium Command, Horizons and Journey Into Imagination.
*Tip* To avoid long lines, tour Futureworld in the evenings after 5pm. People have moved on to the World Showcase and most all attractions are walk-ons.
Day 2 March 30 - Magic Kingdom
We were up at 6:30 am and rode our bicycles down to the FW marina to catch the boat to the MK. There are plenty of bike racks in the marina area for those wondering. Boat service begins at 7:30 am and we were on the first boat. The 10 minute ride over was pleasant as always. Our annual passes worked throughout the trip with no problems. I think some common problems people have are they don't put their fingers in all the way and/or they take their fingers out too quickly. We were through the gate by 7:45 am and took a leisurely stroll down Main Street, stopping to *really* look at the nuances of store fronts. This was of special interest to me as I had been at Disneyland the previous Sunday and it really struck me how different the two Main Streets are.
Our big activities planned for today were the Character breakfast at King Stefan's at 8:30, the Easter parade at 2:00 pm, and a 3:30 pm Character lunch at Soundstage Restaurant at MGM. We strolled to King Stefan's and checked in at the podium outside. We were given a seating card and went into the waiting area where we were met by the Fairy Godmother. This was our first time to be inside the castle and we all thought it was really neat. We shot up the last of the roll of film in the camera and discovered that we had not put any more in the backpack! A trip to the nearby gift shop remedied that situation but left me $9 poorer for a 36 exposure roll of film. Don't forget your film! We were seated right by a window overlooking Fantasyland. The breakfast itself was started with a bowl of fruit and sweet rolls, followed by a plate with potato casserole, banana french toast, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, coffee and juice. The kids had scrambled eggs, bacon, waffle, juice and milk. The server was very attentive and kept our glasses and cups full of beverages. The food was fine, although I'm not a fan of banana anything. The characters in attendance were Belle, Cinderella, Peter Pan and Snow White. Cinderella and Peter were the best by far.
*Tip* If you want to stir things up a bit ask Peter to give you one of his Lost Boys yells. He really woke some folks up with that first holler! Total for the breakfast with tip was $59.
We exited the Castle at about 9:15 am and, after seeing a considerable line for Dumbo, immediately headed for Peter Pan. This is one of our all time favorites. We then headed for BTMRR. The plan was to do Splash and BTMRR but at the last minute my kids backed out of Splash. I think the screaming they hear as folks go down the big drop has gotten them scared. So we bypassed Splash and rode BTMRR. Always a great ride. We followed Big Thunder with a ride on Pirates. By this time it was approaching 10 am and we were scheduled to meet some co-workers and friends of Susan back at Tony's Town Square so we headed back in that direction. We met up with everyone then walked back to Adventureland for rides on Jungle Cruise, Pirates and the Tiki Birds. The JC was different in that Disney had spread colored Easter eggs throughout the cruise and the captain challenged us to find and count all the eggs. I've never seen such an animated boat load of people!
It was now around 12:30 pm and the park was quite crowded so we decided that we had better start looking for a spot for the Easter parade. We went to Frontierland intending to get a spot on the wall in front of Pecos Bill's but we were beaten to the punch. Instead we took up position just across from there and spread out. It was a long wait and it was pretty warm but we survived. The parade was great and I took lots of pictures! The problem was that when the film was loaded, it did not advance into the camera so we got NOTHING! I could not believe it! After the parade, Frontierland was a madhouse. It was all we could do to hold hands with the kids and make our way to the Frontierland station for the Railroad. We took the train around to the Main Street station and exited the park. We took the express monorail to the TTC and transferred to the MGM bus.
We arrived at the Soundstage for our 3:30 pm priority seating time about 5 minutes late but we were seated immediately. The food is served buffet-style and there is a good selection of meats, vegetables, and desserts. We all stuffed up. Total with tip and 10% MKC discount was $51. While eating, we were visited by one character - Meeko. I soon noticed that all of the characters had disappeared and had been gone for quite a while so I asked one of the server CMs when the characters would be back out. I was told they wouldn't because they left at 4 pm! Oh Noooo! I told the CM that we had only seen the one character and that the kiddies would be very disappointed. She told me that she would see what she could do. Expecting her to go into the back and drag out Genie or Quasi before they left for the day, I was instead surprised when a Supervisor came out with a nice gentleman named Carl. They apologized for us not having seen the other characters and to make it up to the kids they asked what characters they would like to see. Soon, Pooh and Tigger trotted out for a special meeting with the kids. Expecting that this was it, we were again surprised when Carl asked if we would like to see Mickey, Minnie and "a few" other characters. "Sure" was our reply and we were off on our character quest.
The kids ended up getting personal meetings with: Genie, Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Mickey, Minnie, Baloo, Prince John, King Louie, Meeko, Donald, Buzz and Woody. Another very nice CM - Melea gave the kids autographed color photos of the characters. To top it all off, we all were given a special seating pass to the HoND stage show which put us on the front row. The perks were nice but what made the whole thing special were Carl and Melea who really made a fuss over the kids. We adults just hung back and let Disney work its magic. It was something to see.
After the HoND show, we did Star Tours with a 5 minute wait and the GMR with no wait. Myself and Jack, one of adults in our party, decided to ride TzToT. The wait was a reasonable 30 minutes, but would have been shorter if both elevators had been up and running. The ride was better than I remembered from last March. I bought the photo at the end.
*Tip* Star Tours, GMR, Muppets can all be done with little or no wait in the evenings even on the busiest days. TzToT lines also diminish a great deal in the evening.
We exited TzToT just as the Sorcery in the Sky fireworks started. This is IMO, the best fireworks show at WDW. Check the schedule and don't miss it if it is offered during your visit. We met up with the rest of our party at the corner of Hollywood and Sunset and then left the park. Catching a bus back to the TTC was a nightmare. We did not know it at the time, but the WDW bus drivers had a sick-out that day and it *really* put a big strain on the WDW transportation system. We eventually got on the bus that looks like a cattle trailer and were literally packed on until the aisles were completely filled. We had to wait quite a while at the TTC for a bus back to FW. I think it took us about an hour and a half to get back to our camper. Never again will we take a bus to any of the parks.
Go to Trip Report - Part II
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